PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — A new COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson is potentially on the verge of emergency approval.
Researchers along the Treasure Coast said it could be vital to slowing down the emergence of COVID-19 variants.
Inside a laboratory located at the Cleveland Clinic’s Research and Innovation Building in Port St. Lucie, Dr. Michaela Gack and her team are studying COVID-19.
"We have learned a lot of how it infects cells in the human body," Dr. Gack said.
In this lab, working with the virus requires strict training and safety protocols. The virus itself is locked up as scientists try to break down how it manipulates the body’s immune system and the different variants that COVID-19 is now evolving into.
"The UK variant doesn’t seem to be associated with drastic severity and that’s the most prevalent in Florida," Dr. Gack sad.
And Florida seems to have the most UK variants in the U.S.
So far Dr. Gack the potentially dangerous South African variant is not here, but testing for it is not widespread.
"The more variation that goes on the effectiveness of the vaccine may decline," said Dr. Larry Bush, an infectious disease expert and vaccine trial investigator.
Dr. Bush looks at the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine as new effective weapon in slowing down variants.
"The key is if we can vaccinate people quickly and the virus doesn’t have the chance to be contagious to people who can still get it then there won’t be variants," Dr. Bush said.
If it seems like a race, it’s because it is, a race for researchers and vaccinations.
"That is a good term, race. We call it actually a virology host and arms race," Dr. Bush said. "Not just COVID-19. It’s the same game with the flu we are dealing with every single year."